Monday, 1 September 2014

Beverly Hills curiosities

Which was does the wind blow?

Rodeo Drive stores have individual emergency services connections

A Beverly Hills house in the style of Spanish architect Gaudi

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The wonders of modern travel

One of the countless wonders of modern life and therefore also of modern travel is the capacity to listen to your local radio station live apparently from almost anywhere in the world.

Have a look at the 'app' displayed on my smart phone just now.

Where I am it is just after 4pm on Sunday and I am in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles USA listening to a live program from a local radio station in Australia where it is just after 9am on Monday.

Amongst the fun of experiencing the strange and different things about life overseas it is reassuring as well to have a moment to hear something, live, from home.

Who's a pretty boy, then?

Me, me, me!

'We' all know about that movie 'Pretty Girl' with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere which was largely set in and around the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and Rodeo Drive.

Here is the hotel on Wilshire Boulevard at the junction with Rodeo Drive.

This morning, early Sunday, I took a wander down to the hotel. Minding my own business I took a photo of the entrance. Quite silently and unnoticed by me a very efficient Concierge (not the one from the movie) appeared by my side and offered to take my photo.

If you enlarge the photo you can more clearly see him approaching me reflected in the glass door.

Here is his a sample of his work. I thought he was pointing my camera in the wrong direction but when I saw the photos I knew I was wrong. I reckon he has taken a few of these photos before.

Seeing as the Concierge was so hospitable I decided to take a seat in the lobby and watch the world pass by for a while.

Beverly Wilshire Hotel lobby

Having made it inside I couldn't resist an admittedly genuine need to visit the hotel toilet. Of course, once there what does one do but take a photograph?

Typical of 5 star hotel toilets, I think

Later on I took a cheapie short tour of Beverly Hills on a stylised Trolley Bus. It only cost $5 and was all over in 45 minutes and served as a sample of the bigger, longer, more expansive and expensive tours on offer.

Of course, it included a tour of streets where the narrator pointed out film stars' homes - or rather former homes; if you believe what they are saying. I didn't bother to photo many of these but here are two just for an indication of the variety of homes. Of course many homes we passed were on massive properties invisible to we gawkers the way they are set behind high hedges and walls. We could just as easily been passing a cemetery or golf course for all I knew.

Gene Kelly's home...apparently, maybe, supposedly
Jackie Collins' home...allegedly, possibly, who knows
Debbie Reynold's & a young Carrie Fisher's home...could be, why not

Saturday, 30 August 2014


The bookings were made many months ago and the countdown seemed slow until this week but finally departure day has arrived (if you get my gist).

Departure from Sydney Airport was delayed nearly an hour because of congestion in outwards immigration (there I go again) and a different form of congestion with birds sucked into an engine, thankfully of another plane, not ours. Despite the delay we still managed to arrive at LAX (Los Angeles) before we had departed Sydney. It was about 2pm 30 August as we raced down the runway for takeoff at Sydney and it was 10.20am 30 August when we touched at Los Angeles today.

Having mentioned congestion at Sydney Airport I won't nonetheless accept criticism of our facilities without argument given the even worse crowding here. It took nearly an hour to navigate the snake queue for Border clearance and once there you are photographed and they take a print of every finger and thumb. After baggage collection and customs clearance I walked along a series of tunnels and into the public area.

I looked without success for any information on the options for getting to my hotel but there was no such assistance apart from several cursory overhead signs which frankly are of no help. I did notice there are upgrades of the airport in progress and maybe these facilities will come with time.

In the end I joined the taxi rank. An Iranian cab driver drove me efficiently - as best I could tell - to my hotel. He was a friendly fellow but the journey was somewhat ruined by his persistence in questioning me on how he could get to Australia for work. Interestingly he mentioned that his cousin had gone to Indonesia and from there by boat headed for Australia but that he had been taken to Manus Island. The Government may have 'stopped' the boats in its view but not the interest.

Anyway - enough of politics; this is not a political blog - on to the vacation.

This is my hotel right in the centre of (luxury) things on Rodeo Drive.

Brand names on every corner.

Brand names side by side.

Even on Rodeo Drive brand names have clearance sales; like Brooks Brothers here offering 60% off for the Labor Day holiday.

But even on Rodeo Drive there is the ominous sight of a vacant store.

So what purchase did I make as a memento of my stay on Rodeo Drive? What do you think about this subtle little number?

Only kidding!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Sore throat

Look up 'sore throat' on Google Images and you will see a lot of rather gross images of...well...sore throats. I was looking for an image of a good looking male with a sore throat to illustrate this post but I didn't find any. I scrolled through many screens of 'sore throat' images until I reached this one...

...what does it have do with sore throats? I think, I'm not sure but I think, the band is playing a song called 'sore throat'. It will have to do.

With wilful, typical timing, nature - or someone - has given me a sore throat and cough on the eve of my overseas holiday which will involve many hours spent in aeroplanes. It is an itchy, dry cough, most annoying and has evolved into laryngitis and cough. Friends in as disparate locations as Brisbane have been laid low with similar symptoms. I am taking medication.

This happens to me too often. 'Big trip coming up?' 'Here, take a cold/cough with you.'

The longest of the flights is the first leg, this Saturday. Thirteen hours and forty minutes to Los Angeles. Subsequent flights will be five hours and thirty minutes to New York, eight hours and ten minutes to Helsinki, a mere three hours and five minutes to London, an even shorter two hours and fifty minutes back to Helsinki, nine hours and fifty minutes to Hong Kong and finally nine hours and twenty minutes home to Sydney.

Lots of opportunities for me to pass my sore throat on to others, lots of opportunities to catch a sore throat back from others.

Saturday, 23 August 2014


'Boyhood' is a scripted drama which follows the life of a boy from the age of 5 to 18. It was filmed over a twelve years period using the same actors throughout so that we witness the real development from childhood to adulthood of the 'boy' Mason, portrayed by Ellar Coltrane.

It was a very ambitious project and the producers struck it lucky that Coltrane, only a child at the outset proved capable of acting out the drama as the years progressed. The same can be said for Lorelei Linklater who portrayed the sister over the same period.

At two and three quarter hours it is a very long film and whilst there is little plot in the early scenes the drama of family life, especially broken families, soon emerges. Without giving too much away I would observe that Mason had little luck with step fathers.

This quasi documentary style drama will not be to everyone's taste but I became quite engrossed.

Strictly Ballroom: The Musical

Strictly Ballroom: The Musical is Baz Lurhmann's stage musical iteration of his successful 1992 film 'Strictly Ballroom'. It depicts the shenanigans behind the management of competitive amateur dance and it contains an 'ugly duck' romance. The film was a bit of a surprise hit. It was very Australian in style, humour, language and theme which I would have thought might have precluded it from repeating its success overseas but successful worldwide it proved to be.

I was a bit ambivalent about seeing this stage version until last Monday night when I saw an excerpt from the production in the television screening of the Helpmann Awards and so thrilling was that excerpt that I immediately booked to see the show.

The musical opens with a 'MC' geeing up the audience in preparation for the show to follow. As best my memory serves me the show then follows pretty closely the plot and key moments of the movie. A large company fills the stage with seemingly endless dance action. It is all rather noisy and I did have difficulty at times hearing some of the dialogue and in focussing on the shifting locations of key action with so much happening simultaneously across the stage. A bit of a failure in the staging, I believe.

It seems essential in two act plays - musicals especially - that the first act conclude with a bang. You don't want the audience to have a reason not to return after interval even if most of what preceded it hasn't engaged their interest so that first act big finish is important. For an hour I found the first act of Strictly Ballroom: The Musical to be a bit disappointing. The large company worked hard, dancing very impressively, but at times the quality of the dialogue and situations portrayed didn't match their efforts.

Then came the first act climax; as it happens the scene that had so impressed me when staged at the Helpmanns. It was easily the best segment of the first act. Finally the audience was treated to some real drama and passion, fine music - Bizet's Carmen; in fact - and even better dancing.

The second act continued some of the theme introduced in that pre-interval climax and the second half of the show was all the better for that.

I'm loathe to mark the production down given how hard the large company works to deliver this show; their efforts really were impressive but it seems to me the musical needs some refinement.